ANTIOCH -- The industrial-heavy waterfront on the northern part of Contra Costa County once played the most pivotal role in the local economy.
But, after decades of declining employment and some neglect, an initiative is under way to bring vitality -- and more jobs -- back into the 55-mile stretch from Hercules to Oakley.
About 400 business leaders, local and state lawmakers and other stakeholders attended a forum Friday at the Antioch Community Center looking at how the area can be enhanced so it is competitive in the 21st century global economy.
"When we learned today is that we have a shared vision that the waterfront needs to be revitalized. We're on the right track," county Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg told those in attendance.
Glover started the Northern Waterfront Economic Development initiative early last year. It calls for improving maritime and land-based resources to encourage development of vacant and underused industrial lands in the absence of redevelopment programs.
But to do that, Glover said, stakeholders must stay engaged and promote the idea.
A report released at the event conducted by Gary Craft of Craft Consulting Group identified seven ways to make the shoreline more competitive, including developing a regional marketing program similar to how the 680 Corridor and Silicon Valley are distinguishable by name, and boosting workforce development with a more robust manufacturing job training system.
The waterfront does have several things in place already, including deep-water shipping channels, undeveloped riverside land zoned for industrial use, clusters of uses such as oil refineries, food processing plants and chemical plants, and accessible railroad lines and roads.
Kish Rajan, director of Gov. Jerry Brown's office of business and economic development, said that it was good to see a lot of local enthusiasm around the initiative, given that there are a lot of challenges in renewing the waterfront.
The governor's office is talking about some of the same things the Contra Costa stakeholders are looking at, including the essential nature of industry in the economy and thinking regionally rather than city by city, Rajan said.
"Contra Costa County and the East Bay are better equipped than any other place in the country to be able to wrestle through how do we have a growing and thriving industrial economy output, and harmonize that with environmental and community health objectives," he said.
Sean Wright, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce and a founder of the EC2 group, said his goal is to improve the local quality of life so that residents have "jobs where they live."
Some of the next steps include creating action teams, developing an action plan, and continued public and private collaboration.
"This is a starting point, and now we're going to finish it up," Glover said.
Part 1 of Friday's forum will air on Contra Costa television at 7 p.m. Tuesday and January 21. The second part will air on those days at 9 p.m.
CCTV can be seen on Comcast Channel 27, Astound Channel 32, and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. For additional air dates, visit www.contracostatv.org.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.